1 Samuel 16:1-13
"Not as man sees does God see, because he sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart."
1 Samuel 16:7
"This is why the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." Mark 2:28
There are times when God really frustrates us! The first reading for today’s Mass describes the frustration that Samuel, the prophet, is feeling. Samuel is one of God’s favorites from birth. As a young boy, Samuel confronted his mentor, the prophet Eli, and then grew up to become God’s primary spokesperson in Israel. God charged him with anointing Saul as the first King of Israel and then becoming Saul’s advisor. Saul did well at first, but later allowed his personal failing to overshadow his obligations to God’s people. Then God had Samuel seek out David to succeed Saul as King, but Samuel was afraid of Saul and was reluctant to do what God asked of him. Samuel made excuses, but eventually found David in the small city of Bethlehem. Samuel was ready to crown several of his brothers because he was judging by appearances but not by God’s standards. By the time Samuel got to David, I am sure he was feeling very frustrated with God.
Most of us are good people, and if you are reading this reflection, chances are that you take the Spiritual Life very seriously, especially the task of discerning God’s Will. If you are like me, God frustrates you because my tendency is to allow my opinions, my viewpoints and my feelings to get in the way of God’s plan of salvation. We can work things out to our satisfaction, only to discover that this is not what God had in mind. The same thing happened to the Pharisees in the Gospel reading. They had figured out how to live the perfect life before God and translated that conviction to a series of behaviors that took the heart out of living life.
The heart of the matter is what God wants us to focus our attention on and God will frustrate us until we do so. It is possible to make our religion a heartless exercise of outward gestures and not a life that flows from the heart, the source of love and compassion. It is such a comfort to know that God truly sees the heart and does not judge only by appearances. Our God teaches us to love our enemies, to forgive those who do us wrong, to help those who are living without the basic necessities of life, to heal the hurting, to welcome the stranger and to love one another as Jesus, God’s Son, has loved us. If we do that, then we will not only appear to be good, we will be good. Our heart will give humanity to our appearance and allow our faith to be life-giving.
Throughout Samuel’s life, he had to learn the lesson that God was truly in charge and not him. Even into his old age, he struggled with this reality. Yet, he did not abandon God’s Will and God did not abandon him. It is a good thing that we struggle to discover God’s Will. It means that God is still in charge. Let us ask our God, who sees our hearts, for the grace to beyond appearances, even our own.
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.